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Studying during Coronavirus: Knockbeg College student on prepping for state exams in a pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting almost every aspect of our lives at the moment.

Bar those working in essential services, the rest of the population is off work and instructed to stay in their homes for the majority of the time until Tuesday May 5 at the earliest.

While around 120,000 Irish Leaving and Junior Cert students have seen their lives turned upside down in the last month.

Those set to sit the Leaving Cert, about 55,000 of them, have been particularly inconvenienced as the one set of exams they have spent the past five or six years preparing for are now in jeopardy.

They have been out of the school setting since March 13 after they were closed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. And on Friday April 10, it was announced that the schools would remain closed ‘until further notice’.

On March 19, the Department of Education announced that Leaving Cert and Junior Cert orals and practical exams were cancelled and all students would be awarded full marks.

While on April 10, it was confirmed the Leaving Cert exams set to take place in June have been postponed. They are now rescheduled for late July or early August – while the Junior Cert is off altogether.

The deadline for submission of Leaving Certificate practical and other projects, in subjects such has History, Geography, Art, PE and Construction, has also been rescheduled to either late July or early August.

All the time, students have been taken out of the routine that they have been used to for the past five or six years just moths before the all important exams.

So, we decided to reach out to the schools in Laois and ask those getting ready to sit Leaving and Junior Cert exams how they are getting on.

What their routine now is, how their school are trying to help them and whether they believe the exams should be postponed or done online if they cannot proceed on the scheduled date.

So far we have heard from Portlaoise CBS’ Eamonn DelaneyScoil Chriost Ri’s Kate Corrigan, Mountrath CS’ Seth Burns Mooney, Colaiste Iosagain’s Emma Dunne, St Fergal’s Niall Coss, Portlaoise College’s Lauren Mills, Heywood’s Dervla McDonagh, Knockbeg’s Ross Bolger, Clonaslee College’s Eva Hyland, Portlaoise CBS’ Thómas Dunne, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Grace O’Brien, Mountrath CS’ Ellen Timmons, Portlaoise College’s Igor Stankiewicz, Knockbeg’s Conor Donlon, Heywood’s Lauren O’Reilly-Phelan, St Fergal’s Robert Phelan, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Julia Cahill, Portlaoise CBS’ Darragh Carolan and Heywood’s Leah Moffitt. 

Next up, it is Vicarstown native and Knockbeg College student Canice Whearty.

1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?

At the moment I try to be up for around 8:30am and get into my study/school work for 9am. Each day I just try to keep it as close as I can to a school day so each day I just work through my timetable for each corresponding day.

I finish up my work around 4pm and then relax for an hour or two. At Around 5/6pm i head out and do my training that my coach has given me and after this i just relax for the rest of the evening and finish up my day around 11pm.

2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?

Every student has an Office 365 account and here we are directed what to do by our teachers. We have groups for each subjects and in these groups our teachers set us work along with deadlines for us to have our work completed for.

Our teachers also share with us many useful resources and advise us to look at other sites that might help us.

3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?

I’m out most evenings training as I try to maintain the conditioning and speed I’ve built up through the winter and indoor track season.

I’m trying to maintain this in the hope of the outdoor season going ahead over the summer as everything up to it has been cancelled.

4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?

Upon hearing the news at first I was relieved but that soon turned to frustration as i thought of the hours i put in practicing and writing notes.

It also meant people that put in less work were now rewarded with getting the same marks as the people that put in loads of work. I came to realize though the work i put in can be used going forward and wouldn’t go to waste.

5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as now the date has been pushed out to late July or early August?

Now that the date has been pushed back I am finding it harder to motivate myself to study. I was disappointed by the decision because I’ve worked hard all year and was looking forward to finishing up in June so now its real killer to push it out for an extra two months.

I understand that it isn’t feasible to have the exams in June but i do think there are better solutions out there than postponing them to July/August.

6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?

Ye we all communicate with each other on social media as we all follow the protocols on social distancing.

Canice Whearty

7 – How do feel young people are being portrayed in the media at the moment? They are being blamed a lot for ignoring social distancing guidelines. Do you believe this is a fair criticism?

In some cases small groups of young people haven’t adhered to the guidelines and i think this criticism is justified as everyone has to play their role in saving lives.

Overall though nearly all young people have adhered to the guidelines so perhaps the criticism isn’t entirely fair.

8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in late July or early August, do you think they should be postponed further or be cancelled altogether?

I think if the current crisis continues that they should cancel the exams and perhaps do predicted grades. I certainly wouldn’t want them to postpone it again as it would have severe implications on people attending college, people going abroad and people doing apprenticeships.

We should also think of those suffering from anxiety as that would be extremely tough on them.

9 – Anything else you would like to add?

While I appreciate the main priority of the government is to save lives we as students face a huge added challenge in our leaving cert year but i am confident we will all get through it.

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